8-Days in Peru
Peru, you are a beauty. Peru is home to scenic views, delicious ceviche, and adorable alpacas. We spent a week in Peru immersing ourselves in the Peruvian culture, exploring the Inca trail, and venturing out of the city for an epic adventure. Within 8 days we traveled 25 hours by plane, 12 hours by car, 11 hours by bus, and 7 hours by train— do the math. It equals no sleep. Yes, quite the journey but hey you’re only in Peru once so Team No Sleep! And fortunately, we did most of our sleeping in the car on-the-go.
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The land of alpacas, great culture, and cheap local markets. If you really want to experience the Peruvian culture, Cusco is the place. This was our favorite city to visit during our trip, and we would say a must-go-to destination. It was rich with history and only a day-trip away from iconic places such as Machu Picchu, Incan Sites, and Rainbow Mountain. We stayed at one of their luxury hotels, the JW Marriott El Convento Cusco, and it was wonderful. The hotel was clean and offered so many awesome perks for their guests such as Pisco Sour Cocktail lessons, morning Yoga classes, complimentary breakfast, and photos with Panchita the baby alpaca. It was also located near the main plaza which made it easy for us to walk around to explore restaurants and shops in the area.
SHOPPING AT THE LOCAL MARKETS
If you’re a shopaholic like us and love bargaining for items… this is your calling. Except most of the items are so cheap, you barely even need to bargain for it. Who knew that carrying 1 dollar can get you so much more than candy around here? We visited San Pedro Market in Cusco, and found a bunch of treasures. Our favorites included little backpacks, traditional Peruvian ponchos, colorful bracelets, etc. These shops are so trendy we wished we bought a ton more things, but silly-ol-us didn’t think to leave extra room in our suitcases for souvenirs— ugh amateurs.
CHEAP 1-HOUR MASSAGES
When you’re exploring Cusco, you’ll notice a lot of locals advertising massages. We decided to take advantage of this offer and so glad we did because it was as affordable as getting $10 to $20 one-hour long massages. Sure, the places weren’t high-end luxury spas but it wasn’t bad either. Some places are better than others, but we liked it enough to do it twice in Peru!
HIKING RAINBOW MOUNTAIN
If you can physically make it to the top of Rainbow Mountain, do try, because it is worth it. But let us first warn you… altitude sickness is a thing. We’ve been hiking or up to Tahoe/Big Bear previously without experiencing any altitude sickness so we thought we were in the clear. Ohh, were we wrong. It varies for each person, but altitude sickness can happen to anyone no matter how healthy you are or if you’re an Olympic athlete so just prepare yourself— chew on coca leaves, drink water, take ibuprofen. This helped us.
It was a 4-hour drive to the base of Rainbow Mountain from Cusco. Most tours start their trips at 3am, but we did a private tour leaving around 6:30am, the latest time we suggest leaving. This will give you enough time to make it to Rainbow Mountain in time, hike, and make it back to Cusco at a decent hour. Our private tour included transportation to the mountain, a guide throughout the hike, lunch, and transportation back to Cusco: all made possible by our amazing driver, Oscar (send us a message if you’d like to get his contact info)! We recommend this option because it was way less expensive compared to online tour prices.
The entire hike took us around 4 hours roundtrip— 3 hours to the top, and 1 hour to the bottom. Note: People also have the option to take horses on the flat parts of the trail, but it’s an additional cost of 40 soles. The hike itself was not difficult, but the elevation made it rough. Areas you could normally walk in felt like you’d just sprinted a mile and some people even experience light-headedness or nausea so we suggest taking it slow. We took a lot of little breaks every few minutes to focus on our breathing. Fortunately, most of the hike was flat but the last 30 minutes had a steep incline so push through it and then BOOM! You’re there!!
Tips for Rainbow Mountain:
1) Dress in layers— during the hike it gets hot, but it’s very cold at the top.
2) Drink a lot of water.
3) Chew on coca leaves to alleviate altitude sickness.
4) Wear comfortable hiking shoes.
5) Don’t fly drones, they are not allowed on the mountain.
6) Pack lightly, extra weight slows you down.
VISITING MACHU PICCHU
Remember those photos you see on Google? Now think of that, but 10x better and 1000000x larger. It is insanely beautiful and surreal when you’re there. No wonder it’s a 7 Wonder of the World…
There are different ways to get to Machu Picchu. We took the 3-hour PeruRail Expedition train to the city of Agua Calientes and from there took a 20-minute bus ride to the entrance of Machu Picchu. We loved this route because the train ride in itself was an experience. It was a mid-level luxury train, clean, comfortable, and quite affordable if you book it from this website. Also, don’t forget your passports because you’re going to need it! Once you get to the entrance of Machu Picchu, there are a ton of guides who will ask if you’d like a tour of the place. We opted out of it because we wanted to go at our own pace, but the guides provide you with a lot of historical knowledge of the Incan sites. We recommend also wearing comfortable shoes during your Machu Picchu exploration because you’ll be doing a ton of walking on uneven paths. Machu Picchu is mother nature’s masterpiece so don’t forget to stop for a moment and take it all in. There are also llamas on site that roam around, so don’t be surprised if you all of a sudden feel a furry animal next to you. They can get realllll comfortable.
Tips for Machu Picchu:
1) Drones are not allowed. There are also rules for certain photos you can/cannot take.
2) Bring your passport!
3) There is no re-entry once you enter the site.
4) Wear comfortable shoes.
5) Spend some time exploring the town of Agua Calientes if you can.
Lima is the capital of Peru, and a place many tourists stop by while visiting. We came here towards the end of our trip and found that we could have skipped Lima because we personally enjoyed Cusco more, but it does have its own beauty and quirks. It’s known for its beach town so if you’re big on weather, make sure you plan your trip to Lima around its seasons. Its said the best times to visit are during its warmer months from December-April. Otherwise, its cooler months are covered in a thick foggy mist with very little sunshine (something we experienced). We stayed at the Radisson Hotel Decapolis Miraflores during our visit here, which was a clean and very modern style hotel and some of our top Lima activities included eating, walking to the Barranco District, and a day-trip to Huacachina Oasis.
This was a quirky, hipster neighborhood in Lima. We enjoyed going here to explore the different art and colorful buildings. It’s a fun street to walk around and explore for a few hours.
EATING IN MIRAFLORES
Miraflores is the “nicer” part of town in Lima many tourists visit. It’s walking distance to the beach, has an outdoor mall called Larcomar, and is filled with many different restaurants. People come here raving about the food in Lima, and we can say we had some of the best seafood while we were here. We’ll list a few of our favorite eats later in this blog, but the restaurant that tops it all off is Maido, a higher-end Peruvian x Japanese fusion meal located in Miraflores. It is one of the Top 50 Restaurants in the World, and now we can hands down say we vouch for it. Make reservations in advance as it’s hard to get into, and do not miss out!!
HUACACHINA DESERT OASIS
The town nestled in the middle of sand dune central, and a highlight for most people visiting Lima. It is seriously so different from other parts of Peru and so much fun! We took a last minute 1-day trip here from Lima with the help of Visit South America Tours, a tour we highly recommend. They literally customized and planned out the entire day for us— transportation to the desert, where to eat for lunch, the dune buggy/sandboarding tour, and transportation back to Lima.
It’s a 5-hour drive from Lima to Huacachina, and we decided to take a luxury bus equivalent to that of a first class flight. It was just a few extra dollars and totally worth it— we’re talkin 140 degree reclining seats people!! When we got to Huacachina, we had lunch and then went on our dune buggy tour. We recommend doing the tour during sunset because it has the most epic views. During the tour, a guide will drive you on a buggy to the top of these giant sand dunes and they’ll provide you boards with the option to body board down the dunes. Some people also do snowboarding-style sandboarding (feet attached to the board). Note: this is not offered on the tour so if you want to do this, you’ll have to rent this yourself somewhere in town before starting the tour.
Let’s get to the good stuff…food. We have to say that Peru was one of the top places we’ve traveled to for food. They had amazing spices and are known for their ceviche, guinea pig, lomo saltado, and seafood. Some of our favorite peruvian items are shown below. We can go on-and-on about the restaurants, but will refrain from keeping this blog too long. If you’re a true foodie, read our detailed food blog, Eating Our Way Through Peru.
Peru is one of the top places we’ve ever visited so we encourage anyone wanting to go to to South America to visit! If you’re a lover of rich culture and Peruvian history, visit Cusco. If you’re into more modern vibes, you’d like Lima. If we had to do it all again, we would have definitely stayed longer in Cusco… and maybe brought an extra suitcase or 2 as well.
To treat altitude sickness: chew on coca leaves, take ibuprofen, drink water.
Pack for all seasons. Peru is hot during the day & cold at night.
It’s cheaper to find a taxis on the streets rather than requesting from the hotel.
Bring comfortable shoes.
Convert your US Dollars to Peruvian Soles.
Brush up on your Spanish. Cusco has more English speakers than Lima.
Do most of your traditional Peruvian shopping in Cusco. We didn’t find any local markets in Lima.
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Exact locations we visited
Where we took our photos
Our schedule for the entire trip
Favorite restaurants we ate at